Kim recalls how she dealt with the grief when her daughter passed away from a mitral valve prolapse.
There’s a huge survivor guilt. You are not supposed to bury your children. Jennifer’s father’s guilt is even greater because he had a heart transplant and got the benefit of someone’s great gift to him that his daughter did not get, that we didn’t know.
You know, you always say, “Did I cause as this? Is this my fault?” And what it really comes down to is, we did the best we could knowing what we knew at the time. Would we do it totally differently? Absolutely, and it never goes away. It never goes away. We keep her very much alive. Her pictures are everywhere. We talk about her. We try and maintain her memory for her little brothers. They didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her. Her youngest brother was just turning 6 when she died.
So we try and maintain those memories and she was a hoot so there’s lots of fun things to talk about with her. So, you live with it. Your life changes drastically, but it’s interesting because her dad told me a couple of days after September 11th, he said, “There are two kinds of people – there are the kind of people who are never going to recover from this horrible thing that just happened to us, and then there’s the rest of us that are going to pick up and go on because that’s what we are supposed to do,” and he said, “And it’s just like Jennifer. We could have decided never to pick up and go on but we have to. That’s what we are supposed to do.” So that’s what we do.
I don’t know if ‘handle’ is the right word. I think when you lose a daughter or you lose a child you learn to live with it; you don’t handle it. It doesn’t go away. I mean, Jennifer died in 1997 and I still will be just overwhelmed with grief sometimes – silly things, silly, silly things, a song, just a fragrance. Something will strike me and you are just like it’s such a waste. I mean it is just literally losing… she was delightful; it’s just a waste.
So, I don’t think you handle it. I think you just kind of go on and it took a while to get out of the stupor. It will sound very, very silly to you, but I got out of this stupor because princess Diana died as it was three months later basically, two months later, and I was watching her funeral when it donned on me that the thing that was in common is these two young women will always going to be beautiful and that I would never have to worry about her getting sick from anything else. That she was always going to be young and she was always going to be beautiful and that’s when I kind of came out of my stupor a little bit. I mean I’d sit in my office doing nothing because I couldn’t get my hands around doing. You want to scream, I mean you really want to say to the rest of world, “Don’t you guys understand my daughter is dead?”
And then it wasn’t just me; it was someone else and it was someone else’s daughter and someone else’s mother and there was a great comfort in knowing that Jennifer is always going to be beautiful, you know? And she didn’t… I can’t honestly say she suffered. She didn’t feel well, but it wasn’t like she suffered. In my mind she still is beautiful young girl with this incredible hair. She was gorgeous. She had hair down to her, just curls, just exquisite and she is always going to be beautiful. So you live with it; you don’t get over it.
Conditions: Sudden Cardiac Death, Mitral Valve Prolapse, Heart Disease, Endocarditis, Atrial Fibrillation
Related Terms: Heart Health Advocate, Cardiology, Heart Survivor, EKG, Cardiac Problem, Women's Heart Center, Heart Valve Replacement, Heart Transplant